While we have continued to develop two important projects the past few months, there is a growing trend spreading from rural communities in the Great Plains to large cities on the coasts, and it is a new kind of government transparency taking shape, commonly described as open government. It is it is not about being transparent for the sake of transparency, but rather utilizing sets of open data to make transparency relevant to the residents in a community. A quick analysis of the data.Illinois portal shows that out of the 1,299 incorporated municipalities in the state of Illinois, roughly 47 municipalities are participating in the program. Most organizations in their current role as government watchdog or activist, have viewed transparency in local government as the posting of .pdf or Word documents online, such as the town's budget or expenditure list. The primary idea is that by posting this information online in such a format, residents or local community watchdogs will take the time to pour over the documents and hold their local officials accountable for the decisions they make. The result ideally is an increase in the level of civic engagement by the residents of a community.
While this traditional method of transparency may have been of a great significance just a short number of years ago and still enjoys a great deal of significance, it is becoming an outdated model for transparency in local communities. The next great step in creating a more open government for the 21st Century is using the power of web and mobile applications with the Open Government model to engage the citizenry. The Open Government model calls for local government data to be released in an open format and updated on a continuous basis. While the form of which this data is presented can vary, the general concept is that the data can be analyzed by local residents in a web based form, but those with the knowledge and skill-set to write code, can create amazing applications to take advantage of the large quantities of data to make it much more relevant and useful to residents in a community. The result brings the level of civic engagement in a community to an entire new level, and opens up government to the people in way that could never have previously been accomplished through the traditional means of transparency. It is no longer just about transparent government; it is about open government!
-Director of Community & Government Relations